After an intense ten-day race across the country, Anthony and Brooke Brown of Las Vegas, Nevada, were awarded the $25,000 grand prize from the first season of BYUtv’s Relative Race.
As a surprise, the second-place winners, Margo and Doug Enberg, of Seattle, Washington, were also awarded $10,000.
Four contestant couples started the race in San Francisco with a goal to reach New York City in just 10 days while spending each night with relatives they’d just met.
Personal cell phones and GPS devices were left behind. Equipped with a camera-mounted rental car, a paper map, a burner phone and $25 per diem, couples navigated the nation to each of their assigned cities. Once they arrived, they had to complete a challenge before being given the address of an unknown family member that Ancestry found through DNA testing.
Each morning the couples received instructions to find a new city. If they went over the designated time, they received a strike.
But the game plan changed the final night. The three remaining couples each had two strikes and were on the verge about being sent home before finishing the race. But instead of receiving marching orders, the couples were told to meet in Central Park the next day.
After frantic drives to New York, the couples met up with Dan J. Debenham, host of Relative Race and executive producer of Lenzworks video production company. They were given challenges to complete before coming back to Central Park.
The Browns were first to return but didn’t know if they’d struck out or won. As viewers watched the finale on Sunday, May 8, 2016, it was impossible to predict the outcome because each couple had different allotted times.
“By then we were exhausted. We barely slept the night before because we were nervous that we’d already struck out and then Brooke had to navigate aggressively. We sprinted everywhere to make good time and had to drive around New York City avoiding lots of blocked roads because President Obama was speaking at the United Nations General Assembly,” Anthony Brown said. “But the most challenging thing was to sit there and wait to see who won.”
According to Brooke, they made good time because Anthony, originally from Brooklyn and a former police officer, is an expert at driving in traffic. He knew that following behind a taxi would get them through the congestion.
Married seven years, the couple has been trying to start their own family, but after extensive testing they discovered they will need fertility treatments, Brooke explained. Their winnings will help pay for the costly procedures.
They agreed before the race that it was going to be about family and working together—Brooke would navigate, and Anthony would drive.
“We weren’t going to argue and fight. I had to rely on what she was telling me. We saved a lot of time by my listening to her, and we didn’t blame each other if something went wrong. It helped our relationship. We travel a lot, and we never fight now—we work together well as a team,” Anthony said.
Doug and Margo Engberg also said their relationship has been strengthened.
“… Margo and I together and having to truly work as a team actually brought the best out in us. She’s very real with her emotions, yet when things didn’t go exactly her way, she’d jump right in there and supported me. I think that I got more out of this whole thing just in regard to my own marriage,” Doug explained to Kari Kenner of the Daily Herald.
“In that situation, Doug and I got really close,” Margo added. “There were moments when we were kind of nipping at each other, but we had to totally rely on each other.”
Connecting with family members was a highlight of the adventure.
“We met incredible relatives, and we’re staying connected,” Doug told Kenner. “We want to develop those relationships and see them grow.… We don’t take it lightly—it’s an amazing privilege and honor to really get to know the people we know.”
For Brooke, the most shocking moment was at their first stop. Her mother was placed through a closed adoption and knew nothing about her biological family. But through DNA testing, Ancestry was able to trace her lines. Brooke was stunned when the first relatives she met were members of her mother’s family. To add to the surprise, Brooke’s mom showed up to meet her half-brother.
“We met family members we can keep in touch with. It just shows that you never realize who’s who—you don’t know who is your family. It made the world a lot smaller,” Brooke said. “We have a better appreciation and connection with people now,” Anthony added.
Debenham recalled one of the most memorable moments in the series happened when Anthony and Brooke traveled to Denver and met Marlon Anderson, a former major league baseball utility player.
“They didn’t know they were related before that moment, but here were two strong men breaking down and sobbing because they knew they had the same blood running through their veins,” he said.
“Wow, it was really touching that he was my first cousin. I hadn’t met any of my relatives at that point, but when I met him he looked like my family. The roller-coaster ride of meeting people and to have them be so nice was so overwhelming. His mom had been trying to find out who her father was her whole life. Since we met, his mom has actually visited the family she’d been looking for,” Anthony said.
Shortly after the series began in February, it built a following around the world, according to Debenham. He said that the general consensus was that people who don’t usually watch TV love the show. They received email, tweets and letters—not only from adults but also from young kids who followed closely and even had favorite couples.
“Nothing is more satisfying in our world of production than to create something that resonates all over the world. It is a humbling and exciting experience. We can’t wait to see what the future the holds,” Debenham said.
Production has begun for a second season and is expected to air next year.
To watch Relative Race click here.
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